Tuesday, 1 June 2010

How McLaren almost did a Red Bull

More details have been emerging about the Webber-Vettel battle as well as the Hamilton-Button one, alongside many rumours of favouritism inside Red Bull. What we now know for sure is that, at lap 40, Webber went into fuel saving mode and turned his engine down. At the same time, Vettel was using the optimal engine setting and was able to get the run on Webber down the straight. Christian Horner has claimed that Vettel had managed to save an extra kg of fuel while being in Lewis's tail. There other versions of the story which include Vettel ignoring his team's orders to turn down the engine himself or even the team telling him to turn the engine up to overtake Webber.

I find the latter hard to believe, as it doesn't make much sense for a team to start alienating the driver who is currently leading the championship. They might prefer Vettel as he is younger and he is the product of their young driver development product, but a championship is a championship, and Webber would make a deserving champion and a very exciting story after years of being in underperforming cars.

Interestingly enough, Turkey '09 ended up with Vettel feeling let down by the team, as the strategy cost him a place to Webber. He was quick in the last stint but he was instructed not to pass with the message "Mark is faster". He went on to post the fastest lap of the race, surely wanting to show that he had the pace.

In a similar way to Vettel, Jenson Button decided to take advantage of Hamilton's fuel struggles and attacked him a few laps after the Red Bull crash. He overtook him briefly, but Hamilton was able to regain the lead soon after. What is interesting is that, in the lap before the overtake, Button managed to lap 1.2 sec quicker than Hamilton, and suddenly ended up right on his gearbox. After the race, Hamilton said he was instructed to save fuel and was given a target lap time, which he quickly slowed down to. He assumed Button would have been in a similar situation, and was very surprised to see him catch up so quickly.

The podium was a very awkward one, as all three drivers looked quite upset, each one for different reasons. There's an interesting story in the Guardian about Hamilton and Webber talking about Vettel's move. Lewis said something along the lines of "He did the same thing to me", presumably referring to their pitlane incident in China. Button thought he was referring to the move he pulled on him and, although Hamilton was quick to clarify, the misunderstanding says something about the tension that was evident on the podium between the McLaren teammates.

At least they managed to have a clean and exciting battle, which is something the Red Bull duo could learn from.


TommyB said...

Top class post. Finally a good post that isn't just "Red Bull are idiots" "Red Bull hate Mark". Good to see the comparison between the McLarens too because in my opinion it was exactly the same situation as favouritism (except the crash)

Ino said...

Thank you Tom! It surprises me how much people have built this up, like it's unique to Red Bull and it doesn't happen elsewhere. Or how they say they are let down by them because RBR is supposed to be the "fun" team. They're leading both championships now, they're under pressure and mistakes are bound to happen! They'll deal with it and bounce back.

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